Thursday, November 22, 2012

Nehemiah 1 notes


Background:
·         The first 12 chapters of Nehemiah cover about 1 year’s time. This is 446-445BC.
Remember that Ezra has made a habit of taking the scrolls and compiling them.
Ezra 1 – Letter from Cyrus ordering a repopulation of Jerusalem, and temple worship
Ezra 2 – Recorded count of the returnees
Ezra 4 – Letter to Ahasuerus from the building opposition, and reply from the King
Ezra 5 – Letter to Darius requesting permission to continue building
Ezra 6 – Letter from Darius granting permission
Ezra 7 – Letter from Artaxerxes granting Ezras trip
Ezra 8 – Recorded count of the returnees
Ezra 10 – Record of the divorcees
·           
     Nehemiah is therefore the story that Ezra records about how the walls came about being rebuilt. He continues to do what he has done before, namely, take scrolls and records and write them down together.
·         Nehemiah is a wealth of information because he keeps a ‘diary’ of all the things he did. This was necessary as a wise and careful cup-bearer, because he needed to have records of who brought in what food and when, for example.
·         Remember back to Ezra 4 also. Ezra puts off all the people who had their marriages with foreigners, and then begins to build the wall. From their perspective this was an overtly hostile action, and as a result they write a letter to the king, demanding he stop Ezra. They receive an army and tear the walls down. Ezra cleans everything up within the first year, and then begins building the walls and fixing the city in 456BC. It takes him about 11 years to do this.
·         Now from Nehemiah’s perspective all he knows is that Ezra was sent on a commission to go rebuild the city as necessary.
·         It’s also worth mentioning that the only other place Nehemiah is found in the Bible is Daniel 9:24-27, the famous passage. V25 speaks to Nehemiah rebuilding the walls and streets in time of trouble. It’s worth noting also that the timer starts when Ezra arrives in the city with orders to put things in order, and the 483 years added to that stop when Christ walks through the gates during the Triumphal Entry.

[1] The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,
·         Interestingly, Esther and Mordecai were named after Mesopotamian deities Ishtar and Marduk, however, by this time Nehemiah has a distinctly Hebrew name.
·         This is November 446BC.
·         Shushan was a stronghold where the royals would go during the winter. It’s also where Esther takes place. Obviously, without knowing anything else we know Nehemiah has ascended in society.

[2] That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.
·         Nehemiah would be curious to see Jews in the city looking for an audience with the King.
·         The exiles had sent Hanani, a sibling of Nehemiah (see 7:2) because they knew that Nehemiah was in a position of power, and they would have better luck sending his own family.
·         Nehemiah has out of date information regarding the state of the exiles
·         Jerusalem, central to the promises of the Messiah, would be key for faithful Nehemiah.

[3] And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
·         Imagine getting this kind of unexpected news from the people. Ezra was supposed to be taking care of them under the hand of God and Nehemiah finds that everything was burned down. It was possible that given no wall the temple could be plundered and destroyed.
·         The whole of the wall was not annihilated, there were merely large holes in the wall where the soldiers had wrecked them, and the heavy gates were all burned and stood open. The devastation however, was not total.

[4] And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
·         Nehemiah responds with weeping, fasting, and sorrow. He mourns certain days, which is likely his off days when he did not have to appear before the king
·         This is insightful because he begins with prayer to God, and fasting in secret. These are the same things Jesus told us to do, not to look haggard, but to do it in secret. It’s also commendable that Nehemiah recognized that first and foremost prayer was the answer.
·         Nehemiah prays and asks God what to do for roughly four months.

[5] And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
·         Here is the tacit admission that the people had not kept His commands or precepts, and had brought on themselves the just return for their sins.
·         God’s special covenant and mercy is only available for those who love and do worship Him, it is not for those who hate Him. As He says in 1 Sam 2:30 “Far be it from me to bless those who hate Me”

[6] Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.
·         This is a good start to a prayer. Nehemiah understands, as few of us perhaps do, that there are prayers which God completely ignores. This principle is set down in Proverbs 15:8, 29, Isaiah 1:15, to name two.

[7] We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.
·         Here an admission of total guilt. They were in the exile justly. This is a bold move. Imagine if we prayed for God to remove Barak Obama from office, by beginning the prayer that we had sinned, that we deserved the punishment, that God was just and right to send him to rule over us because of our sins.
·         Nehemiah has in mind here chiefly Deut 30
·         Nehemiah takes upon himself the sins of the people. Although he has not done this sin yet he understands that he comes from their stock, and their sin is his sin. In the same way we understand that Adams’ transgression was in fact our own transgression.

[8] Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
[9] But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
·         So here he appeals to God’s promise and God’s mercy. And this is the right way to pray. We cast ourselves on not only the merciful nature of God, but on His promises to save, because God cannot lie.

[10] Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.
·         Nehemiah appeals to the fact that God has already brought them out of the Babylonian captivity, and he begged God to show mercy and compassion on them.
·         These same people were wicked and rebellious, compromising and weak, and Nehemiah calls them God’s own and prays for them. This is a shadow of the prayer Jesus gives for His own in John 17.

[11] O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.
·         This man likely refers to the king. Upon hearing the bad news Nehemiah prayed, then looked to pitching a rescue mission to the king. He was not content to sit back and do nothing, expecting miraculous delivery, he knew, just like the story of Ezra, that God often works through action.

For I was the king's cupbearer.
·         The cup bearer was the person who brought the cup to the king and proved it wasn’t poison. He also coordinated the overseeing of the food prepared. This position bought access to the king and his confidence.

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